Sunday, October 30, 2005

Halloween at Stanley Park - Part 2

We started lining up for the train at 8:45pm. We were entertained by 3 little girls in front of us who were just brimming with excitement. Also, there were some teenage girls in front of them who were clearly in need of more attention from their parents. When an older security guard came by I jokingly said to him, "You see what drugs does to people." We didn't get onto the train until about 9:30pm. Squeezing into the little cars is always "fun" This time we were on the alternate train, which had padded seats. A few minutes later the train started off.
The sound system on the train was superb - clear & crisp but not too loud. The soundtrack was a wonderful mix of music, spooky sounds, and just other weird noises. One of the most exciting moments came early on when we went through a tunnel of sorts and suddenly some long skeleton hands started coming toward my mom. She momentarily freaked out! Throughout the 20 minute ride there are numerous actors dressed up as skeletons, ghosts, and devils. One guy's job was to just sit on a toilet and then be awoken by us passing on the train - hilarious! These devils you see here we knew about ahead of time because they had visited us on in the line-up. I think these 2 fellows had the most fun of all!

Halloween at Stanley Park - Part 1

Several times in the past I had been down to Stanley Park to see the miniature train decorated for the Christmas Season. But this year I decided to check out their similar event for Halloween. Arriving just before 6pm my mom & I were a little surprised to discover that the first availability was at 9pm!
Yes, it's VERY popular. But we bought tickets and then took the city bus (#19) back to Denman & Georgia (very convenient bus service by the way!). We then walked along Denman to find a restaurant that appealed to us and ended up choosing the Ukrainian Village. On the way back we explored Coal Harbour where we saw several police cars, 2 ambulances, and one fire truck; I'm still not sure what happened there.Arriving back around 7:30pm we discovered that our tickets ($8.50 for adults, $5.00 for seniors & kids) also let us into the Farmyard. The animals weren't decorated in Halloween costumes but many of the human patrons were, especially the wee ones. As you see from the photos, the decoration was quite extensive. Some of it was a tad ghoulish but most of it had an element of humour to it.

Restaurant Recommendation

Last night my mom & I tried the Ukrainian Village Restaurant at 815 Denman Street, near Robson. As someone who has grown up with all kinds of Polish/Ukrainian food it was a real treat. I absolutely enjoyed my meal, as did my mom!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Shaughnessy Stroll

My friends M & H came by today and we went for a walk in nearby Shaughnessy. It's one of the most exclusive areas of Vancouver, full of lovely old houses, many of them mansions. Besides the lovely manicured streets, it's also extremely quiet. And with its close proximity to downtown, it's a great place in the city to live. The "problem", of course, is that the real estate is VERY pricey! This is an exterior shot of Canuck Place, a Children's Hospice, decorated for the upcoming Halloween festivities. One thing I love about this time of year is walking through the countless multi-coloured leaves that cover the sidewalks like a warm blanket. And the squirrels, I always love seeing the squirrels running to & fro.
Toward the end of our walking tour we walked inside the grounds of the University Women's Club and saw these berries growing on the front pillars.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Car Accident in Rainy Vancouver

The rain started in Vancouver this afternoon. So the drivers naturally slowed down to account for the poor road conditions. Ummm, actually that last part is a lie. This is Vancouver where 75% of the drivers are mindless idiots and so typically most of them actually speed up! I wish I were kidding. I was walking back from downtown and saw the young female driver of the Mini plough right into the back of the Taxi van, who had stopped to let pedestrians cross. I guess this woman probably thought, "I can go as fast as I want because what kind of moron would possibly stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk?! I certainly wouldn't!" Thank goodness no one was hurt. I took these photos and gave the driver of the taxi my business card, in case there's any dispute about what really happened. To my great surprise, he called later to thank me.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Want to see the hypocrisy of the UN?

When I was a child I believed that the United Nations was a great & noble organization. Then I grew up and saw it for the bureaucratic farce it is.

The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, just declared in a recent speech in Tehran that Israel should be "wiped off the map". You can read the full story here.

Israel has now asked for the expulsion of Iran from the UN and rightly so. Let me make a prediction about what will happen ... wait for it ... absolutely nothing! But one or more of the following will occur:

  • Iranian diplomats will come out & say that "he didn't really mean it".
  • China or France or Russia will veto any vote against Iran.
  • Most telling, any general vote asking for the expulsion of or even mild sanctions against Iran will be voted down by a majority of countries.

That, ladies & gentlemen, is the truth about today's United Nations. It's an anti-Jewish, anti-American cabal. And a complete waste of my taxpayer dollars and yours.

Great Quote About "Venture Capitalists"

If you listen to Peter Day's 2005.10.27 show you'll hear Whole Foods' CEO, John Mackey, give a great analogy about what Venture Capitalists really are: "They're like hitchhikers with credit cards. If you pick them up and take them exactly where they want to go they'll keep paying for the gas. But if you don't, they'll hijack the car, throw you out on the side of the road, and get a new driver!"

Absolutely true and absolutely brilliant!

New to Podcasting?

You've probably heard the term "podcasting" recently but might not know what it really means. In simple terms, it is simply a series of audio files (generally MP3 format) that are produced by people and published for download on a webpage. You can stay informed about newly available audio files by subscribe to them via "RSS Syndication". Then you listen to the podcasts on your home computer, mobile computer, or MP3 player like an iPod.

I'm relatively new to podcasting too but have already become addicted to Peter Day's weekly podcasts on BBC Radio 4. Every single one of his segments is interesting & informative. Give it a try!

Just a typical day in Vancouver

I had to go downtown today and captured these various scenes along the way. Because I work at my home office I don't often get out and see what's happening in the real world, so I'm always curious about everything around me, much like a tourist is. This first photo is of a small marina that sits beside Granville Island.
This shot shows a group of chefs at the Pacific Culinary Institute. I assume that they're having their graduation photo being taken. I wish them well and am quite sure they'll soon be embarking on great careers!

This is a brand new piece of public art that sits at the northwest corner of 7th & Granville. The featured woman is the famous B.C. artist, Emily Carr. I don't know her art well enough to understand the significance of the animals, but I do like the little monkey!

First Hand Account from Hurricane Wilma

I just received the following from my friend, Maria, in Florida:

We got hit very hard with Hurricane Wilma.
Brian was in Pittsburgh so I was alone with the dog. They said that would just be a category 1 in the west cost of Florida and a tropical storm when it got to us...
Big change!! We got a category 3 and had a lot of damage. I was sure that the roof was going to pop up because when I was hidden in the
closet I could hear some nails getting of so I got a mattress and put on top us us (me and the dog). She really didn't know why was doing that, but was very scared too.

WE are OK! I'm exhausted, drained. We lost the half of the building that didn't blow last year. An exausted but stronger Maria.

Congratulations Chicago!

Unless you're living on the moon, you've probably heard that the Chicago White Sox just won the World Series, sweeping the Houston Astros in 4 games.

As my friends & family know, Chicago is one of my favourite cities anywhere. I know several great people there and feel so happy for them, their city, and one of their two baseball teams. So to R and K and M & S and L and B I offer my heartfelt congratulations!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The $40 Million Draw

This evening the 649 Lottery drew a number for a grand prize of $40,000,000, the largest in the lottery's history. I bought 3 tickets, at $2 each. Unfortunately my best showing was 2 of the 6 numbers on my third ticket. :-(

So, you'll see me here in the near future. Actually, winning money wouldn't stop me from writing my blog!

Never Send Your Personal Info By E-mail

I just received this letter from Rogers Cable, a multi-billion dollar company that provides TV cable, long distance phone service, & high-speed Internet. In the letter they suggest that I e-mail them credit card information. I'm quite surprised by this because it is absolutely unsafe to send any kind of confidential information via regular e-mail. They are not encrypted and are thus vulnerable to being viewed at many points along the way between the sender and the recipient.

I think the moral here is that if you receive advice that doesn't sit right with you then get a few other opinions.

Dancing Through The Streets of NYC

Turn up your speakers and watch RocketBoom's one year anniversary video.

Gotta give Amanda Congdon credit - the girl knows how to move!

Funny Thanksgiving Greeting Card

After watching this you will never look at a turkey the same way again!

Monday, October 24, 2005

2 Movie Reviews

This past weekend I saw two movies:

Star Wars 3 - Revenge of the Sith
I saw the first Star Wars movie in 1977, when I was just 12 years old. It was absolutely amazing; as were the two sequels. But then time passed and I grew up.
When the 4th movie came out in 1999 I was 34. I enjoyed it but, as an adult, I'm no longer so focused on special effects but more on the story and the acting. It just wasn't as exciting. The next one was even worse. And unfortunately this trend continued with Revenge of the Sith. The story was weak and boring at times, the acting continued to be horrible, and the action scenes were just not credible - maybe to a 12 year old they would be, but not to an adult. For the second half of the movie I found myself browsing the Internet while the movie was playing.

L'Auberge Espagnole
This is a French movie about a group of early 20-something Europeans who
end up living together in an apartment in Barcelona. They hail from Italy, Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium, Britain, and Spain. It's like a mini-United Nations. The story is well written & charming and the acting is superb. There are so many touching, memorable moments that made me recollect and think about my own experiences - not just when I was that age but even more recently. Highly recommended!

An interesting side-note is how different distances (& cultures) are in Europe compared to here in North America. The distance from Paris, where the main character comes from, to Barcelona is 1,107km. This is almost exactly the same difference between San Diego and Redding, in California. I dare say that the cultural differences over the same distance are MUCH more pronounced in Europe ... though some San Diegoans may beg to differ! :-)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Gun Registry 2?

I just read this story about "MASIS", an ever growing software project in our National Defence department? There are so many red flags with this that any competent I.T. manager would have killed it years ago. Yet, as it's within the realm of government, where there's a seemingly endless supply of [other people's] money, it goes on and on. The easiest way to understand what's wrong with this project is to first look back at the Gun Registry fiasco. The best article I've ever read about why the costs got so out of control can be found here. What many Canadians don't seem to realize with the the Gun Registry is that most of the hundreds of millions of dollars got spent on consulting hours to address the endless changes that government officials wanted in the software. As the founder of two software companies, one focused heavily on consulting, I am very familiar with the entire software development process. When the blueprint (specifications) of a software project is mapped out, there are a few golden rules:

  • Try to acquire the resources to get it done in no more than 6 months and certainly never more than a year.

  • Other than minor, MINOR changes, do not alter the blueprint whatsoever. In other words, stick to the plan!

Keeping these rules in mind, let's take a look at the MASIS project:

  • It was started in 1997 as a $147 million undertaking.

  • What started as a very focused effort to handle a single equipment category has mushroomed into a whole lot of other things.

  • In 2003, Defence department officials said it would be done by 2006 at a cost of $325 million - 121% over budget.

  • Now the software is projected not to be fully implemented until 2011 and officials have no idea what the total cost will be.

Am I the only one dumbfounded by these revelations? If you don't fully understand how outrageous they are, let me share with you some observations based on my years of experience as both a software developer and I.T. executive:

  • The project was started in 1997. Eight years ago in software development terms is like the 1950's to the car industry. This project is like starting with the technology to build a 1958 Edsel and then midstream deciding that you really want a 2005 Ferrari and somehow changing around the original design to make it so.

  • Trying to dramatically alter a software project along the way is like starting to build a house and then deciding you want to instead build a skyscraper, but not actual first demolishing the unfinished house and having to work around the limitations of its initial structure.

  • After not too long, you end up with what's known in the industry as "band-aid code": So many "fixes" have been put into the software that it is never stable, has peculiar inconsistencies that are never fixed, and is generally avoided by all users unless they have to use it.

  • The very fact that 2011 is being picked as a completion date is an absolute guarantee that:
    • It'll never get finished.

    • The price tag will probably double once again.

    • Will never do what it's supposed to do.

        What's most irritating about the very existence of this software project is that several off-the-shelf pieces already exist that probably do as much, if not more, than MASIS will ever do. While they're not cheap, they will certainly cost less than what has already been sunk into this project and THEY'LL WORK!

        I wish that all federal political leaders would agree to pass a law that would forbid any more custom built software projects. Surely we've wasted enough money already?!? Or is it built into a politician's DNA to repeat the same mistakes over & over & over & . . . ?

        Another Sunset

        I took another panorama shot today. This one is comprised of 4 photos. What's still so amazing to me about my digital camera is that it picks up details and shades that the human eye just doesn't tend to notice. For example, the shades of gold you see in this photo just were so obvious if you were there. Nice being out at that time of the day nevertheless!

        P.S. If you like panoramas of Vancouver then you might enjoy looking here.

        Saturday, October 22, 2005

        False Creek Panorama

        I took this photo today (actually, it's 8 photos stitched together) down at False Creek's Charleson Park I love the contrast of colours at this time of year.

        Something Positive out of the Teachers Strike

        Though the past 2 weeks have been difficult ones in the lives of most British Columbians, there's an important life lesson I was vividly reminded of. Given a specific situation, two intelligent, thoughtful people can view it in completely opposing ways. What's key to realize is that this does not necessarily mean that one is right and the other is wrong.

        Take Jinny Sims, the BCTF President, as an example. My close friends who are teachers admire her very much. But I don't, never have, and never will. There was an AMAZING segment on Jon McComb's show on CKNW on Friday (Oct. 21st) between 5:15 - 5:35pm. If you want to listen to it then go here. If you don't want to register then you can find registration info here. What you'll hear is a debate between Sims and B.C.'s Labour Minister, Mike de Jong. They don't actually talk with one another directly but communicate through McComb. Talk radio at its finest!

        In any case, one of my teacher friends heard the segment too. What *I* heard in Sims was a confrontational, stubborn, irritating woman and, in my opinion, a perfect example of why the BCTF has been unable to negotiate any deals for at least a decade. Just like David Chudnovsky before her ... who used his BCTF job as a stepping stone to become an NDP MLA by the way. What my friend heard was a woman she greatly admired, someone who is sticking up for teachers rights.

        One situation, two completely different reactions. My friend's views are motivated by her work as a teacher and her belief that her working conditions have deterioriated in the past few years. She also believes that she's entitled to a pay raise. As for me, I don't disagree with her about the working conditions but I do believe that there's more than enough taxpayer dollars going into the system already. I think a whole lot of it is wasted by the numerous education bureaucracies and the very fact that so many in this sector are completely unaccountable for keeping costs down. As for a pay raise, I don't think that anyone is *entitled* to a raise. Many of my friends in the private sector have not had a raise in years. As for public sector workers, I've commented before that a rude awakening is coming their way in the next decade as the percentage of working adults decreases. We already have a huge debt that is going to take decades to pay off. On a very simple mathematical level, it's going to be impossible to keep on funding more & more. These are the factors that motivate me.

        So the next time you're in a disagreement with someone, try to remember that their views are shaped by the sum of their experiences and their personal situation, just like yours are for you. This doesn't mean you have to agree with them. But perhaps you'll take an extra moment to better understand where they're coming from and why they have a different view from you.

        World's Smallest Car

        When I first read this story I thought it was a joke, but apparently it is not. At Rice University in Houston, Texas scientists have built a car that is 1/80,000 the width of a human hair!

        This is an amazing example of a new science called "nanotechnology", which many say has great potential in the coming years.

        Looking through a scanning tunneling microscope, one can see the nanocar speeding across a surface of gold. The nanocar consists of a chassis and axles made of well-defined organic groups with pivoting suspension and freely rotating axles.

        I wonder what kind of mileage it gets?!?

        An Hilarious Commercial ... About Milk!

        Every so often a commercial comes along that has me chuckling out loud.

        Friday, October 21, 2005

        Pocket PC Thermal Imager

        There is now a thermal imager available that works with mobile Pocket PCs. At US$3,499 the price is a little steep but I still think it's very cool! I don't have any immediate use for such a device but I bet I'd find some once I had a unit. :-)

        New Inexpensive Skype Phones

        A Taiwanese-American company named Ipevo has just released some inexpensive phones that plug into the USB ports of your computer. This makes is MUCH simpler to make a phone call using Skype on your computer. And with a SkypeIn account you can just as easily receive calls on your computer.

        In the world of telecommunications things are ch-ch-ch-changing ... very fast! You can read more about these phones here.

        Thursday, October 20, 2005

        What exactly does a software developer do?

        When I tell people that I build software for a living, I assume they immediately get an image of what it is I do day after day. But other than sitting behind a computer for long hours, I don't think that anyone who hasn't developed software themselves really understands precisely what folks like me do.

        Today I created some nifty little "methods" (aka functions) in the programming language I've been working with for the past 7 months. They simplify the process of correctly phrasing messages like this:

        • No files were copied
        • 1 file was copied
        • 2 files were copied

        All are very similar in nature but subtilely different. And though some developers are willing to settle for "X file(s) were copied", I am not. So, in case you're interested, here is some simple but effective code to handle such phrasing:

        public static string PrepareCorrectTense(int quantity, string noun, string verbSingular, string verbPlural, bool noFlag)
        string phrase;
        verbSingular = (verbSingular == null) ? "" : verbSingular;
        verbPlural = (verbPlural == null) ? "" : verbPlural;
        if (quantity == 0)
        hrase = ((noFlag == true) ? "No" : "0") + " " + noun + "s " + verbPlural;
        else if (quantity == 1)
        phrase = "1 " + noun + " " + verbSingular;
        phrase = quantity.ToString() + " " + noun + "s " + verbPlural;

        return phrase.Trim();

        public static string PrepareCorrectTense(int quantity, string noun, string verbSingular, string verbPlural)
        return PrepareCorrectTense(quantity, noun, verbSingular, verbPlural, false);

        public static string PrepareCorrectTense(int quantity, string noun)
        return PrepareCorrectTense(quantity, noun, "", "", false);

        And if you wanted to utilize these methods to handle the example shown above, you would do something like this:

        PrepareCorrectTense(fileNum, "file", "was", "were", true) + " copied";

        An Outsider's Look At The Canadian Medical System

        I just watched a film called Dead Meat, about the Canadian Medical System. Though it was made by Americans, I think it provides a very balanced look at our system. It has long been clear that one's perception of our nationalized medical system is great ... if you don't have to use it. But when you do, there often is an abrupt and painful wake-up call about how long you'll have to wait to get the help you suddenly need.

        The American system is far from perfect. My recollection is that about 40 Million people in the U.S. have no medical insurance. But the choice for us Canadians is not binary - ie. either we stay with our failed system or change to an American one. There are a plethora of other models we could & should look at, including several good ones in Western Europe. But denial is alive & well in Canada, especially if you drink the Socialist Kool-Aid or are trying to get re-elected.

        At a fundamental level, any system that has unlimited demand and limited supply is doomed to failure. That's an indisputable fact - no matter what system we're talking about - but one that has been ignored by the powers at be and citizens at large. And with the taxpayer base (% of working adults) shrinking, the supply will continue to diminish.

        To use a medical analogy, only when the pain is substantial, will the patient (the medical system) be properly treated. I used to think that such childish behaviour ended by the time a person reached the age of 5. But in many ways I think our collective society behaves much like a 3-year old!

        Wednesday, October 19, 2005

        Interesting Comments About A Better System For Teachers

        A good friend of mine sent me some interesting ideas about how he'd like to see the B.C. Education System restructured for teachers:

        1. My understanding is that B.C. teachers make anywhere from the low $40,000s to the mid $60,000s. Not a bad wage, but if the top teachers were to make somewhere in the mid $70,000s, or more, I wouldn't be opposed because teachers provide a very valuable service -- that being to prepare future generations to run and/or contribute to our country (and the world).
        2. However I don't agree with the current definition of "top teacher." I believe that teachers should be rewarded based on merit, not on seniority or how many years they've completed in school or whether they have a post-graduate degree. Rather, there should be some objective measurement (such as how their students perform on standardized exams) and their promotions/salaries based on that. If some teachers continually produce inferior students (i.e. their students continually do poorly on the standardized exams) then those teachers should be fired and replaced with ones that are able to get results. If teachers are producing students who continually score above 90% on provincial exams, then those
          teachers should be paid 75K or even more (heck, I'd back teachers making 100K if they were producing top-notch students).

        Me again. Interesting thoughts, yes? I happen to agree with them wholeheartedly. In fact, I believe such a merit-based system has successfully been applied in some school districts in the U.S. Surely the better teachers would be very much in support of such a plan.

        Unfortunately, the B.C. Teachers Socialist Party (aka the BCTF) would never agree to this. Concepts like "excellence", "accountability", and "responsibility" are absolutely foreign to their ultra-socialist doctrine. This is so sad for several reasons:

        • In no truly professional profession do years of service and educational background have any direct bearing on wages. Instead wages are based on merit, hard work, and capability.
        • If there was more of an incentive on Striving for Excellence then those teachers who succeeded the most would be better rewarded - on so many levels. Yet those who just chose to treat their work like a "government job", though do a decent job, would still make a decent salary. And those who were failing their students would be fired.
        • The students, our province, and our society would absolutely benefit from such a system.

        I am interested in comments from teachers and non-teachers alike about this idea.

        Should "Big Labour" Call Off Their Planned Walkout in Vancouver this Friday?

        Absolutely Not!

        I sincerely want the labour organizations to stop the buses and SkyTrain and shut down all the public office buildings, community centres, and daycares. But they shouldn't stop there. Jim Sinclair and his henchmen should show us all who's REALLY in charge.

        They should shut off the electricity and water, block all the major intersections and bridges, and picket all the hospitals and fire & police stations.

        Only then will us elitist snobs in Greater Vancouver learn who really makes this province run. And if we don't like it then we can always vote them out in the next election. Oh wait, we never voted for them in the first place! Ahhh, a minor point. Shut everything down, Jim, and show us who's really the boss!

        Don't Blindly Follow Mapping Software

        A while back I had to attend a wedding on Vancouver Island. So, as I often do, I consulted Google Maps beforehand. Though I already knew exactly how to get there, I got the website to tell me how to get from Vancouver to Nanaimo. The route provided was completely incorrect, telling me to first head to southern Vancouver Island and then circle back north. This would be necessary except that there's a direct ferry route from just northwest of Vancouver to downtown Nanaimo. It appears that their database, which is supplied by Navteq, doesn't have this northern ferry route in their database. So I let them know. Today (about 1.5 months later) I got back a response explaining that I was wrong and that "driving directions are generated by a host of factors including software algorithms and your navigation system settings." Whatever! So I captured the screen shot shown here and have provided it to them. Let's see if that helps them see that they're wrong!!!

        Hurricane Wilma - Yikes!

        Here is the latest projected path of Hurricane Wilma, which is now a Category 5 storm, the highest level. I've been to Florida twice and absolutely loved it but I just don't know if I'd stay there with storm after storm threatening or actually hitting there. If the high number of hurricanes continues next year then I wonder if the migration patterns in Florida will be affected in a reverse direction?

        Tuesday, October 18, 2005

        A Morality Question

        I just heard an interesting discussion about the average number of sick days taken by public and private sector workers. The general consensus is that those in the public sector take many more sick days than those in the private sector. What's more alarming though is that many of those interviewed in the public sector feel they're entitled to call in sick, even if they're not, if they have any sick days remaining by year's end. Does that not disturb you too? Or does that describe you?

        Recognizing A Stroke

        I promised a good friend I'd pass this on . . .

        A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed and getting to the patient within 3 hours which is tough.

        Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

        Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

        1. Ask the individual to SMILE.
        2. Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.
        3. Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently) (i.e. . . It is sunny out today) If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

        After discovering that a group of non-medical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions. They presented their conclusions at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting last February. Widespread use of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage.

        Monday, October 17, 2005

        Pop Quiz: Name All The Ivy League Schools

        The other day I got into a discussion with a friend of mine about the Ivy League schools in the U.S. I knew a few of them but my knowledge was actually quite limited. So I did some research this evening and found this. I was interested to learn that the term "Ivy League" has athletic roots. I then set out to locate these schools with Google Earth, a magnificent piece of software that I've mentioned before. I've provided two different views here to give you a good idea of where the various schools are located in relation to each other. For reference purposes, know that Columbia is in New York City and Harvard is in Boston. The dates shown indicate what year the school was founded.

        An NDP B.C. - Welcome To France!

        I just heard a detailed interview with NDP opposition leader, Carole James. She repeatedly said that Premier Campbell is taking the wrong approach with the BCTF. If she were premier and had ordered the teachers back to work but they had refused to do so then she would immediately sit down with their leader and negotiate. And if the BCTF refused to change their demands?

        1. Either Ms. James would take the same stance as Mr. Campbell, which would make her a complete hypocrite.
        2. Or, more likely, she would cave into the BCTF's demands - whatever those demands happened to be. Guess what would then happen when the other 130 public sector union contracts came up for renewal?

        Elect the NDP and watch B.C. turn into another France, a country in which anytime the government wants to make any kind of tiny change there are massive strikes that shut down everything. And in the end, the unions always get what they want! Oh hurray, Ms. James, I just can't wait until your leadership is taking us back to the Have Not status we struggled through during the 90's. Just can't wait.

        New Skype Phone!

        Linksys has just released a new phone that works directly with Skype. You can read more about it here. Essentially what you do is plug it into your computer and then you can use the phone just like a regular one. The difference being that it uses VoIP to effect the call, rather than a traditional phone line.

        What I'm not clear this phone has though, and what I'm definitely holding out for is a model that can access both Skype on the computer for long distance calls and the regular phone line for local calls.

        A Msg to the BCTF Leaders and to the Teachers of B.C.

        Jinny, Jinny, Jinny, cut out the rhetoric and ridiculous inflammatory language!!! No one is saying that the government has been an innocent party in this dispute but what sane & reasonable person would possibly sit down with you to discuss anything?!? Your actions over the past week have been a textbook example of extreme passive-aggressive behaviour. One moment you're playing the victim/martyr card and then suddenly you start lashing out at Gordon Campbell and Mike de Jong. Jinny, you've proven that you're the "tough guy" in this province but what keeps on coming out of your mouth isn't helping the situation ... AT ALL!

        Dear Teachers of British Columbia: I deeply believe that most of the citizens of this province support you and your cause for better working conditions, but you are so obviously being represented by someone who does not represent your cause in any kind of effective way. I think you're too close to the situation to see this but the sooner you do, and do something about it, the sooner things will start getting fixed in your favour.

        Saturday, October 15, 2005

        A Blackberry Killer?

        This is a new Pocket PC smartphone that looks like it's specifically targeted at Blackberry users. What *I love* about it is that the software I build for normal Pocket PCs will run on it with little to no changes. It would be so great if more of these type of devices caught on because they would serve as superb data collection devices, plus Cel phones to boot! And then finally we could start getting our society a whole lot more organized. C'mon kids, buy one for yourself for Xmas!!! :-)

        Another Sunny Day

        It was absolutely gorgeous again in Vancouver today. I helped my Dad purchase a new telephone and then walked back to my place via a circuitous route down by False Creek. What really helped out my photography was a combination of bright sunshine and a periodically dark, moody sky full of interesting cloud formations. I met 3 ladies visiting from England, though I mistook their accent for Scottish. Strange, because I'm usually much better identifying accents! There weren't as many people enjoying the outdoors as I would have expected, though there were dogs galore, which I love. I don't often comment on my own photos but I must say
        that I particularly love this one of the rowboats. There's something magical about the pale colours mixed with white, along with the dark blue water. Click on it and let me know what you think!

        Demolition of a VGH Institution

        Just a few blocks west of Vancouver City Hall is Vancouver General Hospital. For many decades countless young women lived in this building while they were training to be nurses. Growing up just half a block away I
        remember walking over as a little boy on Friday evenings and seeing these "ladies" leaning out of their windows and shouting down to a procession of men in muscle cars and convertibles that they would be down in a few minutes. At the time I thought, "That's neat, these cool guys were so nice to be giving these ladies a drive in their cool cars." Hey, I was seven and didn't know the first thing about sex!! But this scene every Friday was like my own personal version of American Graffiti.

        The Sun's Shining On Vancouver

        It's a rare fall day in Vancouver, with the sun shining brightly from above. This photo is one I took awhile back, but one of my favourites of my city. It's actually comprised of several photos taken side-by-side and then joined together with some special panorama software that came with my digital camera. For purposes of displaying on here, it's greatly reduced and compressed, but will hopefully give you a good idea of what Vancouver looks like on a sunny day.

        Friday, October 14, 2005

        Finally the truth of the BCTF strike is revealed

        With any campaign or cause there are always leaders and followers. It is rare that the two have the same motivations for joining together with the other. In fact, in politics it is rare that any 2 voters have exactly the same reasons for voting for a particular party!

        My friends who are teachers support the strike for the best reasons: they want a better work environment for themselves which will directly improve the amount of time and quality of education that their students will receive. For this I commend them. I don't support their engagement in breaking the law but I do commend them for their altruistic reasons in doing so.

        It was revealed today, however, that the motivations of the BCTF leadership and the relatively small number of ultra-militant teachers has nothing to do with the kids and never did. What this is really all about for them is a refight of the last provincial election. The BCTF leaders, other union leaders, and their ultra-militant supporters fought like hell to defeat the current government. They lost and the government won. While all reasonable people accepted the democratic will of the people, these folks did not.

        And so they bided their time, looking for an opportunity to seek revenge. They saw it in this dispute. Like good generals they cleverly wrapped it up with award winning rhetoric about the fight being "all about the students". For teachers like my friends this was very appealing. If I were in their shoes I might very well have signed on too.

        But what the BCTF couldn't have expected was the ruling from Madam Justice Brown. As I said previously, this was most surely a great olive branch extended to the union. It would have been for any reasonable people. But the BCTF leadership has never been reasonable, not with this government, not with the previous NDP government, not with any government. They've chosen to ignore her ruling, already violating it by using their website to continue supporting the illegal strike. Plans are now in place for a general walkout of all public sector workers in Victoria on Monday, with a province wide general strike surely to follow after that.

        Taking a step back for a moment, it's hard to believe this is happening in Canada; reasonable, law-abiding Canada. There is no mistaking that this group is advocating loud & clear that they don't respect the government of B.C., the democratic voice of the people of B.C., nor even the Supreme Court of B.C.

        This all makes me think of several things:

        • Sympathy must go out to the politically moderate teachers who now realize that they've been used as pawns.
        • How large is the group of undemocratic, militant teachers that are teaching our children?
        • If things escalate and some of the more militant teachers are arrested, charged, and convicted, should they be allowed to ever teach again?
        • Several other unfortunate periods in human history were precipitated by similar small groups of people taking the law into their own hands, turning a democracy into something very different.
        • Is there not a striking similarity in the psyche of fundamentalist religious zealots and the relatively small group of hardcore militant unionists?

        Thursday, October 13, 2005

        Interesting Judicial Ruling on the BCTF Illegal Strike

        The judge made her decision today. And an interesting one it is. She has decided not to fine the union at this time. Instead she has frozen their financial assets that were being used to give the teachers their strike pay (about $50/day).

        I think this is a huge olive branch extended to the teachers and their union. For now it changes the balance of power somewhat, greatly lessening the government's ability to force the teachers back to work. I'm still hearing some teachers complaining about the ruling but they surely must be on the militant end of the spectrum!

        Flower Photos For YOU!

        I seem to have gotten lucky with my flower photos of late. I've decided to make available to anyone who wants them, the original hi-resolution versions of these 6 photos. The Zip file is about 10MB and you can download it by clicking here. Enjoy!